Bouncing Basketball B’s

Emergent Literacy Design

Maria Jackson


Rationale: For children to learn to read and spell words, they need the alphabetic insight that letters stand for phonemes and spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words. Before children can match letters to phonemes, they have to recognize phonemes. In this lesson, children will learn the /b/ phoneme.  By learning a meaningful representation, children will recognize /b/ in spoken words, and then they will practice finding /b/ in written words.

Primary Paper
Chart with “Billy bounces basketballs with brown bear.”
A copy of Beast Feast by Douglas Florian, Harcourt Brace, 1994
Drawing paper and crayons
Picture Page (clip art pictures) with bat, bear, cat, house, tree, sun, book, pen, bee
4 Basketballs to bounce and pass to each group


1.  Explain to children that writing is a secret code.  In our code the letters map out certain sounds that we say when we see those letters.  The tricky part to this is learning what the letters stand for.  In class today, we are going to work on the letter b and the sound it makes /b/.  When we are done you will find /b/ in all kinds of words.

2.  “Have you ever played basketball and dribbled the ball against the ground?  The sound it makes sounds sort of like b-b-b-b.”  Dribble the ball against the floor for the students.  Pass the balls to each group and ask them to dribble the ball.  “Do you hear the b-b-b-b sound?”  Say the phoneme sound /b/.  Ask the students, “How does it feel to say /b/?  When we say /b/ our lips push together and let out a puff of air.  A word that has the /b/ sound is the word ‘box.’  Stretch the /b/ sound so you can hear the /b/ dribble in ‘box.’  B-b-b-b-box.”

3.  “Now let’s try our tounge twister on the chart.  I’m going to say it once for you and then I want you to say it two more times with me.  Billy bounces basketballs with brown bear.  Repeat twice with group.  Great Job!  Now lets say the tongue twister one more time and sound out those dribbling b’s each time it begins a word.  Bbbbbilly bbbbounces bbbbasketballs with bbbbrown bbbbear.  Good!  This time let’s separate the /b/ from the beginning of each word that begins with /b/.  /b/ illy /b/ ounces /b/ asketballs with /b/ rown /b/ ear.” 

4.  “Take out your pencils and primary paper.  Now that we’ve learned what the letter B sounds like, we are going to write the letter on our paper. Demonstrate on the board and talk the students through the steps. To write the uppercase B we start at the rooftop and draw straight down to the sidewalk, around for his big chest, and around for his big tummy. For lowercase b, start at the roof, go down, b-b-bounce up and around. Once everyone has drawn your Bb, I am going to come around and see and put a sticker on your paper.  Once I put a sticker on your paper, I want you to write Bb across the next few lines 6 more times.”

5.  “Listen for /b/ in the words that I am going to call out.  Tell me which word has the /b/ in it.  For example, when I say gab and rat, I hear /b/ in gab.  Do you hear /b/ in ball or call?  Fat or bat? cab or cat? Now I want you to clap to show me when you hear /b/ in a word I say or see the mouth move /b/.  I am going to say each word slowly and pause.  If you heard /b/ in the word, I want you to clap twice, if you don’t hear /b/, I want you to leave your hands on your desk.  Barry the bumblebee bakes cakes for Brad’s birthday party.

6.  Now, have students sing a song to the tune of Skip to my Lou My Darling. "We are going to sing a song to the tune of Skip to my Lou My Darling. It sounds like this. Who has a word that starts with /b/? Starts, starts, starts with /b/? Who has a word that starts with /b/? Skip to my Lou, my darling!”  Sing the song one more time to make sure the students have caught on and tell them to raise their hands if they can answer the question in the song.  Pick students and finish the song like this:  Bat is a word that starts with /b/.  Starts, starts, starts with /b/. Bat is a word that starts with /b/. Skip to my Lou, my darling!” Take some more answers and sing the rest of the songs with the new answers, then change the game up a little by changing the song.  “Who has a word that ends with /b/? Ends, ends, ends with /b/. Who has a word that ends with /b/? Skip to my Lou, my darling!” Call on students to answer, and finish the song.

7.  Read Beast Feast by Douglas Florian with the class.  Talk about the story with the students. Read the story again, and have students put their hands on their b-b-bellies when they hear a word with /b/.  List the words on the board.  Have the students write a message about what they would feed a beast.  Encourage them to draw a picture and use invented spellings.

8.  To assess the children’s knowledge of /b/, give them the picture page and ask them to circle the pictures that begin with /b/ with their crayon.  Tell them to write a b above each picture that they circled.  You can also refer back to their letter writing in #4 and their clapping responses in #5.  If children are still having problems with /b/ and writing the letter Bb, then they can be given extra instruction.


Eldredge, J. Lloyd. Teaching Decoding: Why and How. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Prentice-Hall, Inc. 2005. pp.65-71

Grizzle, Sarah.  Mmm Mmm Good.


Murray, Dr. Bruce. Teaching Letter Recognition.

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